As Phillip Chesnut was entering the doctor’s office for his vasectomy, the patient on the way out whispered “Good Luck”. Phillip soon found out why.
When my wife was pregnant with our second child, they ran the normal blood testing of various possible birth defects. They called my wife about two days later with the news that her blood showed a carrier gene for Cystic Fibrosis. The next step was to test me to see if I was also a carrier. If both parents are carriers for the Cystic Fibrosis gene, a child holds a 25% chance of contracting the disease at birth. If only one parent holds the gene, everything is fine. After blood testing, they determined that I was also a carrier for the same gene. Being that we had already delivered one healthy child, we were in immediate panic mode. After amniocentesis testing, It was concluded that our second child was also free from this terrible disease. We breathed a sigh of extreme relief and concluded that my next step would be to have a vasectomy. We did not feel that this risk was worth having another biological child and wanted to ensure that it did not happen.
Well, the details of the first paragraph were not meant to educate anyone on being carriers of a cystic fibrosis gene or anything regarding our children or their birth. It was meant to show that many men will encounter situations in their life that place them in the position to make a difficult choice whether or not to have a vasectomy. Many of these choices are based upon a range of reasons far beyond the typical “I just don’t want to have any more kids.”
Immediately after scheduling an appointment with the doctor to talk about the procedure, I did what everyone else would do. I scoured the internet for information about the procedure. BAD IDEA! The internet is full of stories, both terrifying and reassuring, but these stories are based upon an individual’s experience. There are many different Urologists and many different methods to having the procedure done, so each person’s experience is going to be vastly different. What I am detailing next are my experiences and the emotional and physical feelings that I encountered and you may encounter after you make this decision. I hope you find humor in my experience and find humor in your own experience. Laughter truly is the best and only medicine, especially when a doctor is about to take a scalpel to your genitals.
Vasectomy consultation (with my wife and two year old son)
The first step in my vasectomy was to have a consultation with the Urologist. It is required in most states to have your wife present for the consultation and to sign the paperwork required to have the procedure done. The consultation consisted of the doctor asking what brought us to this decision and informing us about the procedure, what it entailed and the procedures I should take after the vasectomy. Everything was pretty normal until the doctor told me to stand up and drop my pants. My wife, or at least a four year old version of her, started chuckling and giggling while the doctor was groping me in front of my two year old who, by the way, was yelling “pee-pee” over and over. He informed me where to shave and where the incisions would be made. I left feeling a little humiliated and nervous but, to my wife, it was a very enjoyable visit to the doctor and she was laughing as if she had just sat through the newest Will Ferrell movie.
The days leading up to the vasectomy
My first huge recommendation is to make the actual vasectomy appointment as soon as you can after the consultation. In the days leading up to procedure, your mind will be conjuring up more insane and horrific images than you can even imagine. I, unfortunately, had about one month between the consultation and the procedure. During the consultation, the doctor explained the procedure to me utilizing words such as numb, gentle, painless, etc., and the procedure I pictured after his description seemed like getting a filling in your tooth. One month later, my mind had turned that simple, gentle procedure into a scene out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. During the final week before the procedure, I laid in my bed, eyes wide open, picturing myself tied to the doctor’s bed, an old yellow tinted light swinging from the ceiling and the doctor raising a chainsaw in the air as he laughed hysterically, slowly lowering it to my midsection. You laugh. This is going to happen to you.
Here is where I interject a small note for the wives reading this. My wife consistently reminded me that she had been through two c-sections with our two boys and that this was nothing in comparison. Yes, I know this. Yes, I know that your procedures are vastly more terrifying and painful than mine. Trust me, we know that you went through an ordeal giving birth that a vasectomy cannot touch and doesn’t even come close to comparing too. Knowing this will not ease our panic. It is still a very scary procedure for us and it is still deserving of a little emotional support. She did provide me with great emotional support when I needed it but it was nothing like the Percoset and Vicotin that the doctor prescribed me. Which brings me to my next recommendation: Take your pre-vasectomy nerve cocktail. Most doctors give you a pain reliever and nerve easer to take a couple of hours before the procedure. Take them and take them when your doctor tells you. You don’t want them to wear off or not have taken effect yet.
The night before the procedure was filled with little sleep and more horror movie images in my head. My procedure was not until the evening so I had all day to wait patiently to take my nerve cocktail and head to the doctor’s office. My five year old son tried his best to calm me down by reading his books to me but every time I saw Wolverine in one of his comic books, I was weeping in the fetal position. I was finally able to take my pills shortly after lunch and I sat patiently waiting for their effects to take place. My mother-in-law came to watch our two children while I went and I couldn’t help but notice that she was looking at me like you would look at a dog that was going to the vet to get neutered. Oh wait, that is what I was doing. As I sat in the waiting room, the medication had not taken the effect that I thought it would. I was hoping that I would be half asleep and drooling as I spoke, unable to speak my name. Okay, I wanted to be high as a kite. Unfortunately, that never happened. Finally, the man who had just undertaking the procedure before me came out of the hallway. I looked into his eyes for a sign of reassurance that this was going to be easy but what I got was vastly different. He looked at me in the same way my two year old looks at me after he has sat in time out for getting in trouble and all he said to me was, “good luck.” Seriously. At the same time, the nurse was saying my name to come back to the operating room. I took the slow walk of doom back to the room and they showed me to my bed. They told me to strip and put a towel with hole it in over my man parts. I could hear my testicles screaming at me, “What have you done, what have you done?” Sorry, boys. Too late now.
The doctor finally came in and said it was time to get started. I laid there with my hands behind my head saying “Calgon take me away, Calgon take me away.” Damn Calgon never took me, I was still there. To be honest, the shots that administered the local anesthetic were not very painful at all. At least not as painful as the horrific images I was picturing the night before.
Disclaimer: What happens next is only my experience and, hopefully, will not be yours.
“I’m going perform the vasectomy now.” He brought the scalpel down to my testicle and made the first incision. I could feel every inch of the cut. “Could you feel that?” “Uh, yeah.” “Hmm”. I’m sure that “Hmm” is the medical term for “Oh, shit. That’s not supposed to happen.” He administered a third shot. Again, I could feel the incision. A fourth shot and I was finally numb to the scalpel. What the doctor said next haunted my dreams. “This happened to the last guy. We must have a bad batch of anesthetic.” Ah, now I understand the face and “good luck” from the last guy. I didn’t feel anything after the fourth shot until the cauterizing iron came out. For those of you who don’t know, when they cut the vas tubes to block the flow of sperm, they cauterize the ends of the tubes to keep them from opening up. Yes, the sizzling sound and the smoke that billows from your crotch are nothing short of terrifying. When he touched that iron to end of that tube, my leg shot fifteen feet off of the table in the direction of his head. The doctor actually made some pretty impressive matrix moves to keep my foot from kicking him in the temple. “I’m assuming you felt that?” Here goes the fifth shot. My right testicle is starting to feel like the bad guy’s head from the Hellraiser movies. I was numb again until stitch time at which they needed to give me another shot because I could feel the stitches. If you were keeping up, that was six shots on one side.
“Well, it’s time for the other side.” Never a more harrowing word has been spoken to me. Oddly enough, two shots on the left side did it until the stitches. The stitches were painful but the doctor didn’t want to administer another shot if he didn’t have to so he pretty much told me to grin and bear it.
The good news is that I made it through the procedure alive and with a great story to tell. Once the numbing agent wore off, I would feel like my crotch had just gotten out of a 12 rounder with Mike Tyson but I made it. Pain meds and frozen vegetables would be my best friends for the next few days.
After the procedure
Doctor’s orders after the procedure were to stay off of my feet for a few days, ice like crazy and take my pain meds. Frozen peas are a man’s best friend after a vasectomy. You probably have no idea how big your testicles can swell. The doctor informed me that my right testicle would probably look a little worse due to the six shots he administered. Imagine getting kicked in the testicle by Jean Claude Van Damme. Yep, like that.
I was actually looking forward to having a reason to sit on the sofa and watch tv all day long with no excuse to get up and do things around the house. This did happen. The one thing I didn’t think off was that the ice packs and towels bunched up around my crotch would become a beacon to my two year old. Every chance he had, he was trying to take superman leaps from the ottoman to my crotch. Most of my chair time was spent catching a leaping child in midair before his knee made impact with my swollen midsection.
My procedure was on a Friday and I was back at work on Monday. Walking was nothing short of excruciating, so I stayed at my desk as much as possible. When I did take the 30 minutes it took me to walk about 20 feet, I got to enjoy the constant ridicule from my co-workers. I would expect nothing less.
I hope my experiences don’t scare any of you away from getting this procedure done. I only wanted my experiences to provide you with a little humor about the whole thing. It is a very terrifying procedure for us men, mainly just mentally agonizing. Do not go looking to other people’s experiences and to the internet for reassurance. You won’t get it and it won’t help anyway. The procedure (barring an effective anesthetic) IS relatively simple and pain-free. From the words of the guy before me in that waiting room, “Good Luck.”
photo: Good Men Project staff photographer